Code Signing Reading Time: 10 minutes

Why does every developer need to know about Code Signing?

In this discussion whiteboard, we will be discussing about what is Code Signing process? What are the benefits of using Code Signing certificates for your software/code security? What makes the Code Signing certificates the best security solution for developers. Let’s get into the topic:

With the increase in penetration of mobile devices across the globe, there is a steep increase in demand for Cybersecurity. The enhancement in mobile and internet infrastructure and advancements in technology across the globe is propelling the adoption of smart devices among enterprises and consumers. At the same time, enterprises are rapidly embracing cloud platforms and other networking technologies. Because of these advancements, companies are becoming more vulnerable to various cyber-attacks.

In 2017, cyber-attacks on mobile devices increased by over 40% with an average of over 1.2 million attacks per month. Hence, cyber security modules such as cryptography, Data Loss Prevention became more and more critical for the end-users and organizations dealing with sensitive data. The global cybersecurity market is set to grow from its market value of more than $120 billion in 2019 to over $300 billion by 2024. The cybersecurity market is propelled by the increasing need among enterprises to minimize security risks.

Studies have shown that at least 93% of all mobile transactions were blocked in 2019 as they were fraudulent. It is necessary to enthuse a sense of trust in your customers that the software they are downloading is safe. It is also the reason why you must buy a code signing certificate.

All these factors combined contributed to the growth in demand for cybersecurity especially Code Signing certificates. Code signing certificates provide confidence and trust to end users on the code/software programs developed by the tech firms.

What is a Code Signing process?

Code signing is a process to confirm the authenticity and originality of digital information such as a piece of software code. It assures users that this digital information is valid and establishes the legitimacy of the author. Code signing also ensures that this piece of digital information has not changed or been revoked after it was validly signed.

Code Signing plays an important role as it can enable the identification of legitimate software versus malware or rogue code. Digitally signed code ensures that the software running on computers and devices is trusted and unmodified.

Software powers your organization and reflects the true value of your business. Protecting the software with a robust code signing process is vital without limiting access to the code, assuring this digital information is not malicious code and establishing the legitimacy of the author.

Encryption consulting’s (EC) CodeSign Secure platform

Encryption consulting (EC) CodeSign secure platform provides you with the facility to sign your software code and programs digitally. Hardware security modules (HSMs) store all the private keys used for code signing and other digital signatures of your organization. Organizations leveraging CodeSign Secure platform by EC can enjoy the following benefits:

  • Easy integration with leading Hardware Security Module (HSM) vendors.
  • Authorized users only access to the platform.
  • Key management service to avoid any unsafe storage of keys.
  • Enhanced performance by eliminating any bottlenecks caused.

Why to use EC’s CodeSign Secure platform?

There are several benefits of using Encryption consulting’s CodeSign Secure for performing your code sign operations. CodeSign Secure helps customers stay ahead of the curve by providing a secure Code Signing solution with tamper-proof storage for the keys and complete visibility and control of Code Signing activities.

The private keys of the code-signing certificate can be stored in an HSM to eliminate the risks associated with stolen, corrupted, or misused keys. Client-side hashing ensures build performance and avoids unnecessary movement of files to provide a greater level of security. Client-side hashing ensures build performance and avoids unnecessary movement of files to provide a greater level of security. Client-side hashing ensures build performance and avoids unnecessary movement of files to provide a greater level of security.

Seamless authentication is provided to code signing clients via CodeSign Secure platform to make use of state-of-the-art security features including client-side hashing, multi-factor authentication, device authentication, and as well as multi-tier approvers workflows, and more.

Support for InfoSec policies to improve adoption of the solution and enable different business teams to have their own workflow for Code Signing. CodeSign Secure is embedded with a state-of-the-art client-side hash signing mechanism resulting in less data travelling over the network, making it a highly efficient Code Signing system for the complex cryptographic operations occurring in the HSM.

Code Signing process for developers

Code signing process also leverages the principle of public key cryptography (especially PKI). When a developer wants to perform code signing then he/she are actually pinning a digital cryptographic certificate to the piece of code or software program. There are two critical steps involved in the code signing process: 

  1. Encryption
  2. Hashing

As a first step, a unique private key needs to be generated by the developer that can be used to encrypt the information. According to the concept of public key cryptography, a private-public key pair is a set of encryption mechanisms to perform encryption/decryption.

Once the key pair has been generated, the public key is sent to a trusted issuing body called a Certificate Authority (CA) which verifies the developer’s authenticity, and then attaches their public key with a digitally signed certificate which is the developer’s proof that they are the rightful owner of the key. This certificate is the code-signing certificate in question. The CA sends the public key along with the certificate back to the developer who requested it.

As we have both the code-signing certificate and an encryption key pair, developer must leverage these certificate and key pair to hash the software’s code before they can encrypt and sign it. Hashing is a procedure in which a hash function is used to convert code into an arbitrary fixed value. The output of hashing, called a digest, is then encrypted using the private key. Next, the developer combines this digest with the code-signing certificate and the hash function to create something called a signature block, which is essentially all the above items combined into a piece of code that can be conveniently inserted into software.

Once the developer injects the signature block into the software, it is effectively code-signed, and can be distributed.

What are the benefits of Code Signing for developers?

Code signing is one of the safest process which provides maximum security for the software and code. This is the very aspect which makes code signing a highly sort after process for developers as well as tech firms. Let us understand some of the important benefits of using code signing for securing your code/software. Encryption consulting provides CodeSign Secure platform to perform the code signing activity. You would be able to protect the firm’s unique code and software programs by performing code signing process using this platform.

Protects code integrity

Code signing provides authentication to the code and/or software programs integrity using hash function. If the hash used to sign the application matches the hash on a downloaded application, the code integrity is intact. If the hash used does not match, users experience a security warning or the code fails to download.

Code Signing Certificates include an optional timestamp to extend the life of your digital signatures. Your code will remain valid even if your code signing certificate expires, because the validity of the code signing certificate at the time of the digital signature can be verified.

Streamlined security of the code

When your code/software programs are integrated with code signing portals using API integration. Encryption consulting’s Code Sign secure will make the process of code signing easy to manage and integrate with your code. Streamlined security helps you get to market faster while protecting the integrity of your code and reducing security warnings.

Minimize security warnings through trusted Certificate Authority

Code signing process creates and establishes trust as certificates from trusted Certificate Authority (CA) is leveraged. Root certificates of trusted and reputed certificates authorities will be installed on the client host machines. So, it is always advised to use standard Code signing providers such as CodeSign Secure. When you use code signing, your code is automatically accepted without any security warnings. This will pave way for seamless download of the software or code. With minimum security warnings, there will be better ease of usage for the end user.

Encryption Consulting’s CodeSign Secure platform use cases for developers

There are multiple use cases that can be implemented using CodeSign Secure platform by Encryption Consulting. Majority of the use cases can be relevant to digital signature concept discuss above. CodeSign Secure platform will cater to all round requirements of your organization. Let us look into some of the major use cases covered under Encryption Consulting’s CodeSign Secure:

  • Code Signing:

    Sign code from any platform, including Apple, Microsoft, Linux, and much more.

  • Document Signing:

    Digitally sign documents using keys that are secured in your HSMs.

  • Docker Image Signing:

    Digital fingerprinting to docker images while storing keys in HSMs.

  • Firmware Code Signing:

    Sign any type of firmware binaries to authenticate the manufacturer to avoid firmware code tampering.

Organizations with sensitive data, patented code/programs can benefit from CodeSign Secure platform. Online distribution of the software is becoming de-facto today considering the speed to market, reduced costs, scale, and efficiency advantages over traditional software distribution channels such as retail stores or software CDs shipped to customers.

Code signing is a must for online distribution. For example, third party software publishing platforms increasingly require applications (both desktop as well as mobile) to be signed before agreeing to publish them. Even if you are able to reach a large number of users, without code signing, the warnings shown during download and install of unsigned software are often enough to discourage the user from proceeding with the download and install.

Encryption Consulting will provide strongly secured keys in FIPS certified encrypted storage systems (HSMs) during the code signing operation. Faster code signing process can be achieved through CodeSign secure as the signing occurs locally in the build machine. Reporting and auditing features for full visibility on all private key access and usage to InfoSec and compliance teams.

Encryption Consulting’s PKI complete package

Encryption Consulting LLC (EC) is offering a complete all-round package on training for Public Key Infrastructure (PKI). This PKI course can be taken by candidate who is at any level – be it a beginner, intermediate level or advanced level. PKI course is recommended for anyone using or managing certificates, designing or deploying a PKI enterprise solution, or evaluating & selecting a commercial PKI Technology Solution.

Planning a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) can have a significant skill ceiling, as an organization’s authentication, encryption, and digital signing can depend on how the PKI is built. An organization needs a robust and secure PKI infrastructure to ensure security and privacy and meet regulations and compliance. Creating and managing a PKI requires ample knowledge about it, which Encryption Consulting brings along with the experience needed for organizations to have a custom solution for their needs.

In our three days, PKI Training delivered online, In-person focusing on Microsoft Active Directory Certificate Service (ADCS) Training, customers will learn how to deploy or design PKI solutions in the enterprise.

You will learn how to build a PKI on Windows Server 2019, focusing on areas such as integration with HSM, Two-tier PKI, Cloud PKI, and more.

There is a strong emphasis on: PKI Governance, PKI Design best practices, Certificate Lifecycle Management process and PKI operations and hands-on skills lab.

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Datasheet of Code Signing Solution

Code signing is a process to confirm the authenticity and originality of digital information such as a piece of software code.


About the Author

Anish Bhattacharya is a Consultant at Encryption Consulting, working with PKIs, HSMs, creating Google Cloud applications, and working as a consultant with high-profile clients.

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